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Federal Court Dismisses Charges against Hamid Hayat

2006 terrorism charges dismissed due  to ‘passage of time’ and inadequate defense attorney

By Lloyd Billingsley, February 16, 2020 7:52 am

The case against Lodi man Hamid Hayat, convicted in 2006 on terrorism related charges and upheld in 2013 by the Ninth Circuit, are now being dismissed “due to the passage of time,” the office of U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott declared Friday. The court moved to dismiss the indictments “in the interest of justice,” which pleased Hayat’s supporters.

“An innocent man spent nearly 14 years in prison, a family was torn apart and an entire community was left traumatized due to prosecution taking advantage of anti-Muslim, post-9/11 hysteria,” said Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) executive director Basim Elkarra in a statement. On the other hand, the February 14 statement did not proclaim Hayat innocent.

After September 11, 2001, the United States sought to stop other attacks before they occurred. The Hayat case was one of the first prosecutions on that front.

In 2006, federal judge Garland E. Burrell sentenced Hamid Hayat to 24 years in prison for, as the U.S. Department of Justice explained, “a series of terrorism charges related to his 2003/2004 attendance at a jihadi training camp in Pakistan and his 2005 return to the United States with the intent to wage violent jihad.”

Judge Burrell said Hayat had re-entered the U.S. “ready and willing to wage violent jihad.”

The Ninth Circuit upheld the sentence in 2013 but the case wound up before Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes, a relative newcomer to California’s Eastern District and inexperienced in cases dealing with terrorism. Barnes allowed Hayat family members to testify by video from Pakistan. All Pakistani witnesses testified that Hamid Hayat was a fine fellow and could not have attended a terrorist training camp.

In January of 2019, Judge Barnes submitted a 116-page recommendation that the conviction of Hamid Hayat be vacated. Attorney Wazhma Mojaddidi, Barnes contended, had failed to provide Hayat an adequate defense. Following the ruling, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott told reporters, “It has consistently been our position that Mr. Hayat received effective representation at trial and that his conviction by a jury, subsequently affirmed by the 9th Circuit, is completely valid.”

On July 30, 2019, the District Court entered an order “vacating defendant Hamid Hayat’s conviction and sentence, which the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had earlier affirmed.” That was the ruling of Judge Garland Burrell, the appointee of President George W. Bush, who had originally sentenced Hayat to 24 years in prison.

After serving 14 years, Hayat went free. Now “Due to the passage of time, the government now moves this Court to dismiss, in the interest of justice, the indictments in this case.” This means the U.S. Attorney will not seek a new trial for a new trial for Hamid Hayat of Lodi, California, convicted on terrorist charges in 2006.

Contrary to CAIR, it does not mean Hamid Hayat is innocent, only that his attorney failed to provide him adequate representation. Wazhma Mojaddidi is a former president of CAIR in Sacramento and was the attorney Hayat chose to represent him.

As Mojaddidi told the Sacramento Bee last year, “I passionately represented Hamid Hayat as a young attorney and worked with a great team of lawyers and investigators in his defense.”

Wazhma Mojaddidi is a UC Davis grad who earned her JD at McGeorge School of Law. She is the principal attorney at Mojaddidi Law and lives in El Dorado Hills with her husband and four children. 

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